What happens when you go somewhere and have great expectations about what it’s going to be like? What happens if those expectations aren’t met?
This happened to me last week.
One of the places on my wish list during Doorstep Adventures August was Folly Farm; one of the 37 nature reserves owned and looked after by Avon Wildlife trust. I’d driven past the sign many times and had been reading about it in their member’s magazine. I loved the fact that it was bought with the help of a mystery donor who appeared ‘out of the blue’ at ‘just the right moment’ to enable the trust to buy it in 1986. It was a magical place I’d decided.
I’d gone primarily to visit the Well-being garden. I really liked the concept behind it as a place of learning and sharing the benefits of gardening and growing to improve mind, body and spirit. Way before I visited I had started to create an image in my mind of what this well-being garden looked like.
In my mind’s eye I’d envisaged the layout of the garden. The sweep of colours, the beauty, the delicious and heady smells, the textures, the artworks, the sense of peace I was anticipating….. ohhh it was going to be so amazing!
It was nothing like I’d imagined.
I was disappointed.
I’d built up a picture, an expectation.
From my 'Expectation Eye View' when I actually saw it, it appeared in a bit of a mess and the space didn’t seem to be utilised as I thought it should have been and what I’d expected. I was critical. It was a shame there wasn’t someone there to talk about the great work they do there. Again, I think I’d expected there to be someone there working in the garden. It didn’t seem to match the rest of the place..in my opinion in that moment. Perhaps their vision for the well being garden is what I’d envisaged and they just aren’t there yet?
Perhaps it’s not anything about the overall look of the garden but about what it feels like when you immerse yourself in it and work in it rather than just looking at it?
At this point I knew I had a choice. A) Continue to feel disgruntled it hadn’t lived up to my expectation and go home feeling annoyed or B) change my mind and Re Frame the situation by ‘dropping’ the expectation and continue exploring.
I chose option B
If I’d held on to my initial disappointment I would have left straight away. Had I done that I wouldn’t have discovered the hidden joys in the garden such as the pigs, the bounty of chillies, the bright marigolds, exploring then further to the beautifully designed light filled centre and meeting a lovely lady who’d married there four years previously. I found the fire pit area with the views looking out across to Chew Valley Lake. Had I not chosen option B I’d have missed these gems. The more I explored the better it got.
Expectations can work for or against you. Setting clear expectations can ease the mind and reduce worry/stress, that’s a big fat positive. On the flip side though as I’ve been talking about here, they can actually get in the way and taint your experience.
Expectations can make you go blind. Blind to the magic that’s right there under your nose for you to see if your mind weren’t so busy huffing and puffing about how things are NOT what you’d expected!!
Are you letting expectations cloud your vision and your experiences?
Take a notebook and pencil and have a think about times when this has happened and how this has impacted on you emotionally and in turn affected your thoughts and behaviours. Jot down those that come to mind and consider how different the experience could have been if you’d let go of expectations. Consider that for a moment and notice what that feels like.
How NOT to be blinded by expectations!
Start now. This can apply to any situation as expectations are always there, just waiting to jump in! Be prepared. If you KNOW you have a tendency to think like this take a few moments to centre yourself and get used to noticing when those expectations start showing up. And do just that - notice them then let them go (takes practice!) Ask yourself – is that expectation thought helpful? If not then thank it for showing up and let it go, knowing you’ll have a richer experience as a result.
I usually have to laugh at myself when I notice I’m doing this. It happens all the time and sometimes it can take me a while to notice – which is exactly what happened with Folly Farm. I was so wrapped up in the excitement of going on the adventure that the expectations had been piling up without me really noticing – until I got there that was and fell right over it! Tripped me up good and proper.
Reframe the situation
If you’re already in a situation that has presented you with disappointment – try reframing. First think – Ah! I know what’s happening – I was expecting X but I got Y. Then look for the reframe in this so what’s the benefit of getting Y? Shift your focus from the negative to the positive. You can do this by just one thought and that can make a huge difference.
Funny thing – when I went to Folly Farm I thought I’d be sharing with you about, well Folly Farm. Writing about managing expectations – well I’d not expected that!! Ha!
PS - Its usually free to visit a Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve. You don't have to be a member. Is there one near you?
And here's a film I put together of the visit, as you can see and hear, the more I explore the more I find and the better it gets. ;-)